The 44-year-old woman had worked for the bank since 2002, most recently as the bank’s desk clerk at the Schiphol branch. She handled about fifty transactions there every day.
In the spring of 2020, ABN Amro decided to no longer exchange money, after De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) tightened the rules for this, partly due to the risks of money laundering of criminal money.
ABN Amro informed the employees in emails and with a presentation that no more changes were allowed. “The DNB has determined that this is a high-risk act, as large banknotes are often used in situations involving money laundering and crime,” the bank emphasized.
However, the desk clerk at Schiphol found a creative way to still be of service to a customer who wanted to exchange a 500 euro note. On July 7, 2020, she advised the customer to buy a one dollar bill, which would allow her to give him change in smaller bills.
After telling colleagues about the transaction, the bank put her on hold and launched an investigation. Although the cashier denied having made such transactions more often, she turned out to have exchanged a 200 euro note in the same way the day before.
ABN Amro then went to court to be able to dismiss the woman without severance pay. According to the bank, there was culpable behavior, malfunctioning and a disrupted employment relationship. Before that, the employer en passant put forward a laundry list of other grievances against the woman.
For example, she once lent her Schiphol pass to her sister, left a WhatsApp group with work information for employees, and several times failed to report cash differences. She would also make too many mistakes in transactions, fail to keep agreements, and not be able to deal with criticism.
According to the desk clerk, ABN Amro should not be allowed to put her out on the street after an employment contract of 18 years. She stated, among other things, that the ban on exchange was not clear enough to her, and that she only wanted to be a customer.
If she were nevertheless fired, the desk clerk claimed severance payments and continued payment of wages during the notice period; together about 85,000 euros.
Banks under magnifying glass
A recently made public judgment shows that the subdistrict court in Haarlem agrees with the bank. ABN Amro may fire the cashier and does not have to pay her any severance pay.
According to the judge, the employee should have known that the switch trick was contrary to the new policy of the bank, and for that reason alone acted ‘seriously culpable’.
The Subdistrict Court also points out that bank employees must not take a bankers’ oath for nothing, in which they promise to act with integrity and care. The court also took into account that banks such as ABN Amro have been under a magnifying glass in recent years with regard to anti-money laundering.
In 2018, ING had to pay a settlement of 775 million euros because the bank had done too little to prevent money laundering. The Public Prosecution Service is still under investigation against ABN Amro into inadequate anti-money laundering policy.